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Biohacking with the Oura Ring fitness tracker

February 26, 2019

What could be more exciting to a data nerd and health geek like me than a device that gives you data about your own health on a daily basis? There have been lots of fitness trackers in the market the last several years but none have piqued my interest like the Oura Ring and accompanying fitness tracker app. The Oura Ring tracks your activity, sleep, temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability, and combines the data points to provide daily “readiness” scores and health tips so you can optimize your overall health.

In the first two months I’ve had the fitness tracker ring  (Ronnie got it for me for Christmas!), there have been so many ways this has given me insights into what’s going on in my body that I might not have realized the impact of before. I’ve also had it long enough to gather enough data to provide some good long term trends that I can use to gauge and adjust what I’ve been doing, and share with you in this fitness tracker review.

Body Temperature

Oura Ring body temperature report

My daily body temperature readings from the Oura Ring app

I wasn’t particularly excited about the Oura Ring’s nightly body temperature monitoring, since I’m not planning on having any more children and Ronnie took care of that on his end, but it would be very useful for women trying to track their ovulation schedule for family planning. However, it provided me some peace of mind when a recent tummy bug made its way through our house. It alerted me that my body temperature was above average for a few days after Layla had been puking, and recommended I take it easy in case I was fighting something. I backed off exercise and focused on sleep, and never ended up catching the nasty that the rest of the family caught. I also made the assumption that once my temp went down, the bug had passed me by and I wasn’t living in fear that it had yet to hit me. Ronnie was the last one sick over a week ago, so I hope that this means I am officially in the clear!

Heart Rate Variability and Resting Heart Rate

Oura Ring HRV trend

Improvement in my weekly HRV average over the last 2 months

Since I’ve dealt with a lot of stress over the years and trying to heal from adrenal fatigue , learning that I could use the Oura Ring fitness tracker to monitor my nervous system was the driving factor behind my desire for this particular wearable fitness device. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of the distance between two heartbeats, whereas heart rate is just the average number of beats in one minute. When HRV is high, or there is a lot of variation in distance between beats, it’s a signal that we are relaxed and healthy. When we are stressed, our HRV lowers as the nervous system powers up for fight or flight mode. By measuring HRV consistently at night during sleep, the Oura Ring provides average nightly HRV and maximum HRV, which are then used to monitor how well your body is recovering from the stresses of life, whether that be intense workouts, inflammatory foods, a rough workday or bad night of sleep. Since I’ve been using the Oura Ring along with cutting out anti-inflammatory foods, prioritizing sleep, cutting down on alcohol, and practicing breathwork, I’ve seen my own HRV average improve significantly in just over 2 months.

The most dramatic impact to my own HRV I’ve seen is when I have alcohol. Not that I didn’t know that tasty adult beverages aren’t exactly health promoting, it’s still something I love to indulge in, especially on a Friday night after a long week. While I know that wine calms my racing thoughts and helps me mentally break away from work stress, when I saw what happens to my HRV and resting heart rate after a glass or three of wine at night, it has made me much more thoughtful about how badly I need that glass of wine. And it’s been much more rewarding when I skip it, get a quality night sleep, and have high readiness/recovery scores in the morning! A glass or two of wine significantly diminishes my HRV, increases my resting heart rate, and decreases the amount of deep sleep I get. The below images show first a normal, healthy night’s resting heart rate and HRV, followed by a night after I’ve had alcohol.

normal resting heart rate

My normal resting heart rate throughout the night

 

elevated heart rate after alcohol

After a few drinks of alcohol, my heart rate was elevated until about 3 am, and never reached my normal low

And here is the HRV impact:

healthy heart rate variability

This is what my HRV looks like on a good night. I must’ve done some breathwork right before bed.

And here is HRV after alcohol…

low heart rate variability after alcohol

You can visibly see the lack of variation while my body is stressed trying to metabolize the alcohol.

Can you see why I’m geeking out about this? I’m my own living science experiment!

Sleep cycles

alcohol's affect on deep sleep

Not enough restorative deep sleep due to alcohol before bed

This might be the most mysterious thing of all for a device that simply sits on your finger all the time, but the Oura Ring has an amazingly accurate sleep tracker as well. It shows how I cycle in and out of sleep stages each night, as well as the amount of total time I spend in each sleep stage. It also calculates total time in bed and actual time sleeping. How it knows this is beyond me, but it works! The sleep tracker is also an area that I see alcohol have a significant impact, because usually my deep sleep will suffer and I will notice more awake/light cycles throughout the night.

Readiness Score

Oura ring app homepage

My readiness score on the Oura Ring app homepage

The Oura Ring fitness tracker also tracks daily calorie expenditure (basal metabolic rate + calories burned from activity), how many steps you get in a day and exercise duration and intensity. You can also manually input these measures if you remove the ring to do barbell activities or something where you don’t want it to get damaged. It will estimate calorie expenditure based on what you input, using your personal attributes like age, gender, height and weight from the settings. But the magic happens when it takes all the factors listed above and combines them to provide a Readiness Score, along with a quick tip of advice based on your score that day. If the readiness score is declining, it will warn you and call out which aspect of your health might be causing that. This is where I learned I might be running a low grade fever after spending a night cleaning up puke from my kiddo. On the flip side, it tells you when you are rested and recovered so you can be confident kicking butt that day. Additionally it gives you a calorie burn goal based on your readiness to help you moderate your activity level and workouts.

Outside of the totally nerdy and amazing features I’ve listed above that help me biohack my way to better health, the Oura Ring has solid battery life and doesn’t need recharged for 4 to 5 days. I just set it on the charger once or twice a week when I’m getting ready in the morning as it only takes about an hour to charge up. It’s also water proof up to some ridiculous water depth that I will never be swimming so I can wear it in the shower, washing dishes, at the lake if Summer ever gets here, etc. And it easily pairs with your phone and the free fitness tracker app that comes with it. It isn’t cheap, with prices starting at around $300, but they run occasional sales and  it’s a one-time fee. I think in the long run, my health is a worthy investment and the information this fitness tracker provides could help keep me out of the doctor’s office with illness or injury, and help me achieve the balance needed to live a long, active, and full life. Now if I can just keep the 3-year-old from stealing it off the charger and losing it…

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